The third film we watched from the ‘Worlds Apart’ film programme was King Kong, which was co-directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack which was released in 1933.
King Kong. Words could not describe what a classic this film is and how enjoyable it is to watch but here goes.
King Kong is in some regard the grandfather of horror films and although not filled with blood, murderous villains and deadly traps like those of the Saw series and The House of Wax as examples, it utilises elements of horrific death by means of huge and deadly creatures, in this instance dinosaurs and an oversized ape. It was interesting looking at the portrayal of these beasts however, and some of them were somewhat inaccurate if my childhood memories serve me correctly. By this I mean the predicative instincts of the Brachiosaurus' seen in the water were more cannibalistic where they should have been those more suited to a herbivore. It feels more like the directors interpreted what kind of animal this was rather than knowing what it was. Robert Ebert, in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times states;
"In "King Kong," you are looking at an idea of a dinosaur..."
This goes without saying that the directors probably knew little about the creatures they used in the film, however the discoveries of dinosaurs, although not relative new as they had been found in the past, were really just beginning to build up their characteristics in scientific communities and little was known at the time.
The affects used for these creatures, albeit dated, are still fantastic and an excellent example of cinematic history. Stop-motion effects paved the way for 3D animation because of this film and others like it and although the ones used for the film seem very robotic there was still a sense of fluidity in them. In the review written by James Berardinelli, he states;
"State-of-the-art visual effects, an entertaining story, and a touching ending combined to bequeath upon this film the coveted label of a "classic." It its era -- and, indeed, for decades after -- no monster movie (whether made in the U.S., Japan, or elsewhere) approached the lofty perch of this one. The title character, the creation of stop-motion effects wizard Willis O'Brien (mentor to Ray Harryhausen), captivated audiences and started a world-wide love affair with a giant ape."
And yes, it was these very elements to the film that do make it a 'classic'. You could even go as far as to say that King Kong was the Avatar of its day. A large number of films were influenced by monsters and the creature feature genre began with this.
The film is an interesting 'interpretation' of the typical beauty and the beast story portrayed throughout history and by interesting I mean brutal. Unlike the Beauty and the Beast stories we have come to know and love, there is a lot more violence and of course all of it focused around a beautiful woman. A review by Film4 states;
"...Ann Darrow, a young woman plucked from obscurity to become, in the film within the film, the beauty to the beast that is Kong, a mythical great ape lording it over the inhabitants of the mysterious and remote Skull Island."
This story is all about dominance from human to animal perspectives and this is shown in a form of hierarchy. We have Kong at the top, an unstoppable force of nature, dinosaurs in the middle who are slightly more stoppable (if your 50 feet tall) and humans at the bottom who get squashed like bugs periodically. This is how it runs for the most part of the film at least because when Kong is out of his element, he slowly becomes out matched and soon machines (creation of men) become dominant.
Again a magnificent film, it truly deserves to be a classic and one that will stay fresh in my mind for a long time.